PKL 2019: New-look Tamil Thalaivas out to claim maiden play-off berth

After two successive bottom-of-the-table finishes, a new-look Tamil Thalaivas featuring the likes of Ajay Thakur, Rahul Chaudhari and Manjeet Chhilar, will look to claim a maiden play-off berth in the seventh season of the Pro Kabaddi League.

Ajay Thakur, the India national team captain, has remained Tamil Thalaivas' best offering and has got it the points when it mattered the most.   -  VINIT JAIN

It's been two years since Tamil Thalaivas joined the Pro Kabaddi League and its fortunes have remained the same – a disappointing bottom-place finish in Zone B in both seasons.

The Chennai-based team has the firepower and calibre to claim those much-needed victories, but a struggling raiding department saw it slip to many narrow losses, and register two ties, thereby severely denting its chances of progression last season.

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Another common factor in the last two seasons was the side's over-dependence on captain Ajay Thakur. The India national team captain, has remained the side's best offering and has got it the points when it mattered the most, but has often struggled for support.

That problem has been addressed with the arrival of the “Raid Machine” Rahul Chaudhari. The Thalaivas snapped up Chaudhari – PKL's all-time leading top-scorer – for Rs. 94 lakhs, making him one of the league's most expensive players. With its raiding woes sorted out, the side will bank on veteran Manjeet Chhilar to anchor the defence in its quest for a maiden play-off berth.

Raiders: Ajay Thakur, Rahul Chaudhari, Shabeer Bappu, Vineet Sharma, Yashwant Bisnoi, Ajith Kumar, Anand

This has to be Thalaivas' best raiding unit. Thakur has been the side's sole beacon of hope with an astonishing 426 points in two seasons – accumulating to over 30 per cent of the side's total points scored. And, fortunately for him, he will now have Rahul Chaudhari for company. Having played for Telugu Titans over the last five seasons, Chaudhari is a sure shot game changer. With a staggering 876 points in 100 matches, he is the star Thalaivas needs. The addition of old-timer Shabeer Bapu will further bolster Thalaivas' strength up front.

Defenders: Manjeet Chhilar, Mohit Chhilar, Ajeet, Himanshu, Abhishek, Milad Sheibak, Ponparthiban Subramanian

Tamil Thalaivas' defence looks a tad inexperienced this time around. Sans the two Chhilars – Manjeet and Mohit – its other defenders are all fresh faces. The onus will thus be on Manjeet, called the 'One Man Army', to hold the fort.

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The brawny veteran was the team's top defender last season and is still the league's highest tackle-point grossing defender with a whopping 302 points. And, he's a handy raider too.

He will find able support in right-corner specialist Mohit, who ranks fourth on the list of the most successful defenders in PKL history. Mohit is one of the most sought-after defenders in the league and is notoriously popular for his Super Tackels. The arrival of Iranian defender Milad, the country's second choice right corner behind Abozar Mighani, will offer the side some more stability at the back.

All-rounders: Victor Obiero, Ran Singh, Hemant Chauhan

The muscular Ran Singh will be the side's X-factor this year. He joins Tamil Thalaivas after picking up 71 points for Jaipur Pink Panthers last season – his most successful PKL season – and will further fortify the side's raiding department. Kenya's Victor Obiero, who got little playing time last season, could spring up a surprise or two as well.

Tamil Thalaivas full schedule

July 21: Telugu Titans vs Tamil Thalaivas

July 25: Dabang Delhi vs Tamil Thalaivas

July 29: Tamil Thalaivas vs Patna Pirates

August 4: Haryana Steelers vs Tamil Thalaivas

August 7: UP Yoddha vs Tamil Thalaivas

August 10: Gujarat FortuneGiants vs Tamil Thalaivas

August 17: Tamil Thalaivas vs Bengaluru Bulls

August 18: Tamil Thalaivas vs Puneri Paltan

August 21: Tamil Thalaivas vs Jaipur Pink Panthers

August 23: Tamil Thalaivas vs U Mumba

August 29: Bengal Warriors vs Tamil Thalaivas

September 1: Bengaluru Bulls vs Tamil Thalaivas

September 2: Telugu Titans vs Tamil Thalaivas

September 8: Dabang Delhi vs Tamil Thalaivas

September 9: Tamil Thalaivas vs Patna Pirates

September 14: Tamil Thalaivas vs Haryana Steelers

September 18: Puneri Paltan vs Tamil Thalaivas

September 21: UP Yoddha vs Tamil Thalaivas

September 28: Gujarat FortuneGiants vs Tamil Thalaivas

September 30: Tamil Thalaivas vs U Mumba

October 7: Tamil Thalaivas vs Jaipur Pink Panthers

October 9: Bengal Warriors vs Tamil Thalaivas